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Reversion to the disreputable

As I noted a few weeks ago, some of our environmentalist friends were on their best behaviour during the public inquiry into Dart Energy's proposed expansion of their coalbed methane operations in Airth, Scotland, with Friends of the Earth's evidence including none of the wild claims that they have made as part of their campaign of scaremongering.

With the hearings for the inquiry now over, normal service seems to have been resumed, with the Herald's Rob Edwards (who else?) reporting the latest batch of more or less bonkers scaremongering.

Evidence submitted to the inquiry by Dart says that “predicted annual discharges” of untreated water from the development could contain up to 1.7 billion becquerels of radioactivity. The radioactivity comes from uranium and thorium deposits deep underground, and is flushed out by mining operations.

Now anti-nuclear local authorities have pointed out that this is much higher than the annual discharges from the Rosyth Royal Dockyard. An official report from UK government regulators put Rosyth’s liquid discharges in 2012 at 0.6 billion becquerels of radioactivity.

The claims come from Dr Ian Fairlie, a retired civil servant specialising in regulation of the nuclear industry, who seems to be spending his declining years in hiring himself out as a consultant to environmental groups on radiation matters. His list of publications makes for interesting reading, particularly in view of his earlier employment.

If you read on in the Edwards article, you discover that Fairlie's claim is made on the basis of the radioactivity levels in untreated discharges from the wells, despite Dart already having a treatment plant on site. So if I understand the allegation correctly, it is that if Dart did things differently from the way are doing them (and plan to continue to do them) there might be a minor problem.

Can't say fairer than that, can you?

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Reader Comments (29)

Good job Fairlie doesn't live in St Austell, he would have to spend his life in a radiation suit if he is scared of that amount.

May 4, 2014 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

Dart’s predicted radioactive discharges were highlighted in a submission to the public inquiry by Dr Ian Fairlie, a radiation expert hired by local objectors. He didn’t present his evidence because Dart objected to inaccuracies in his submission.

Reading this you would think that Fairlie is an independent expert when he is, in fact, a director of CND and has been since October 2010.

What you have is an activist member of FoE getting a director of CND to say something bad about radiation. Colour me surprised.

May 4, 2014 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Ah, the "what if" scenario. If Grandma had wheels, she'd be a wagon. Fair lie is lying by omission. He's sold his reputation for a mess of potage. If Dart were not treating the discharges, which of course, they are, then Dart would be "naughty boys. There is a similar story over at WUWT about adjustments to sea level (could be sea volume) measurements, in order to secure future research funding grants, by the usual suspects.

May 4, 2014 at 10:59 AM | Registered Commenterperry

..who seems to be spending his declining years in hiring himself out as a consultant to environmental groups on radiation matters...

I'm not proud. Where do I apply to get a job like this?

May 4, 2014 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

"Reversion to the disreputable"

Not about Dart but apt to the title:-

Bengtsson Joins GWPF…Alarmist Physicist Georg Hoffmann Reacts…Parallels GWPF To The Ku Klux Klan!

May 4, 2014 at 11:24 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Maybe he lives in Aberdeen.
And wears lead underwear.
From the same rag

May 4, 2014 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterBill Irvine

Pretty standard scaremongering. If they can find a way to say "radioactive" or "acid" or "chemicals", then they will.

May 4, 2014 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

After reading through his list of publications one might, if perhaps uncharitably, call some fashion?

May 4, 2014 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterjones

If he lived in Ramsar, he might change his opinion about radiation.

May 4, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Well spotted, PB.

May 4, 2014 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze

1.7 billion Bq is equal to, approx, 10,000 bananas an hour. Or, if 99 % stays behind in the sludge, 100 bananas an hour in to the Firth. Big place is it, this body of water?

Or, usual Bq level of water is 14 Bq per litre. Volume of the Firth is 5.1x108 m3

Or 510,000,000,000 litres. 500 billion litres at 14 Bq is 7 trillion Bq. thus they would be adding, without treatment, 0.02% per year of the natural radioactivity already there. And that's assuming that none of it flows out into the North Sea etc.

Do check that sum for zeroes etc as they can wander with me. But the concern is nonsense.

May 4, 2014 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim Worstall

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

But treatment works have a habit of not working or not working well unless the regulator makes that a very expensive business. So its up to him or them. More power to his/their elbow, say I

May 4, 2014 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

May 4, 2014 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

1.6 billion Bq sounds like a lot but as Tim Worstall points out (your figures are correct) it isn't really.

If you go for a bone scan at the hospital you will be injected with 600 million Bq of Technetium-99m so the Dart annual discharge is equal to less than three bone scans worth of radioactivity.

The effective dose of a bone scan is 3.5mSv which is 0.5mSv greater than the typical annual dose everyone on the planet receives - 80% of which is from natural sources.

May 4, 2014 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

That's actually surprisingly balanced for a Rob Edwards story although it's difficult not to suspect that the main purpose of writing it was to give all the green lies another airing. How many of his audience will read it and take away the point that all the green statements are wrong or misleading? As mentioned above the omission of Fairlie's COI is notable.

A more accurate headline for the piece would be "Greens lie about coal gas plans".

May 4, 2014 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

I always note that, in environmental 'scare' announcements, the units of measurement are always chosen to make the numbers impressively large.... it's like announcing the each breathe we exhale contains 982,000,000ths of a gram of CO2. Much scarier than .982g!
What, precisely, does 1.7 billion becquerels equate to in terms the average person can understand? IIRC this is about 100m bananas worth.....

May 4, 2014 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave_G

Since the WHO considers water containing 100 Bq/l safe to drink, as long as Dart ensures the volume of untreated water is greater than 17,000 cubic meters then it would be safe to drink (from a radiation point of view).

May 4, 2014 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

I write as a retired scientist in the nuclear industry, not a moderator.

Please could commenters be careful with the use of the prefixes "m" and "M".

"m" milli in science writing is not millions, it is thousandths
"k" kilo is 1000 times
"M" Mega is millions

So, 100 m bananas would be read by a technical person as one tenth of a banana, not 100,000,000 bananas.

Whatever you mean, it would help avoid confusion and unnecessary criticism if the correct usage is followed. Even better, when you mean million why not just say "million".

For those pedants/searchers for accuracy out there, a list of approved prefixes and their meanings is given at
One of the occasions where Wiki is trustworthy!

May 4, 2014 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Bates

Mr. Bates, your words are most welcome. There are no shortcuts to language when your audience is of a wide spectrum. It is a great idea to actually use the words for perfect clarity. While we are at it, keeping jargon to a minimum would also be good. Yes, it will take longer to write one's message, but what price to ensure it's understood and less liable to be argued against?

May 4, 2014 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterJackyboy

Ian Fairlie is NOT independent. He is a directly elected council member of CND -

May 4, 2014 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterSadButMadLad

As a non-retired scientist, I can't say I've ever come across any measurements with units of milli-Bananas. Is this an Imperial measurement?

May 4, 2014 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveJR

I have a genuine question : do these people live in fear for their own safety in perpetuating the falsehoods they do?

May 4, 2014 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn in cheshire

Too much bananas is not good for you , the problem being potassium I think
It's a sort of salt to the system.

May 4, 2014 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

1.7 billion becquerels sounds a lot scarier than 0.046 curies.

May 5, 2014 at 12:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterTimM

DaveJR, that sounds suspiciously like a standard measurement from The Register.

May 5, 2014 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterivan

Wiki says "The becquerel (symbol Bq) (pronounced: 'be-kə-rel) is the SI derived unit of radioactivity. One Bq is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second.".

As far as I can determin, 0.6 billion caesium atoms is less than 1mm cubed of material (or 0.1mm it's a bit of a challange for me).

May 5, 2014 at 1:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

Also noteworthy, dears, is Dr Farlie's association with Dr David Lowry, who has been attempting to stir up concerns about radon in fracked gas for months. Dr Lowry, I believe, also assists anti-nuclear MP for Newport West, Paul Flynn, and I suspect is behind a number of PQs that Flynn has tabled on various matters related to radiation in the environment. It's an incestuous business, isn't it poppets? xxx

May 5, 2014 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterAunty Fracker

May 5, 2014 at 9:42 AM | Aunty Fracker

As the Austrians discovered with their drinking water supplies (see the last 3 slides):

It's better to leave the radon in the gas. If you try and clean it up you give yourself a radio-active waste disposal problem!

May 5, 2014 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

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